Psychology: The ABCs of Angry Gamers

As a result of gaming, if you or a loved one is prone to rage quitting, breaking electronics, or swearing like Ralphie from A Christmas Story, then please read on. The inner psyche of angry gamers is a messy chasm of emotion, let loose by traits that make them vulnerable to fits of aggression. Be warned: we all have an angry gamer inside us just waiting to be unleashed.

Antecedents

The type of gamer you identify with and the games you enjoy will determine the antecedents to your bloodlust. This is crucial to understand if you want to make a change. Without this knowledge, there will be no linking this to one’s behavior and therefore no insight into their connectivity, leading to the same results time after time. Here are some game types with common antecedents to anger.

FPS: If you fancy first-person shooters, then you probably enjoy competition.  Those who wade into the multiplayer waters of Call of Duty, Battlefield, or Titanfall 2 come out on the other side typically with a 1:1 kill-to-death ratio. I certainly fall into this skill level, which is the main reason I always equip the perk that drops a grenade when I die. (Nothing like securing one more kill once you’ve been bested.) This level of skill is acceptable to most gamers, but in games  like these, to be average is unacceptable. The ranking systems push you to pursue higher  kill-to-death ratios while leaderboards mock you, showing how good others are  or how far it is to the top. This is infuriating over time—and most people have a breaking point. When a player has realized that they will not achieve a high status on a leaderboard—or maybe not even make the highest score in a match—in that moment they are prone to rage. While this is possibly the least likely situation to elicit aggression, it does occur. The depressing undertone of these games  suggests to the vast majority of gamers that they will never be the best. Growing up, we were told we could be anything we wanted to be, but not everyone is cut out to be a tournament caliber Halo player. Gamers these days are getting younger and younger while being exposed to more competitive styles of play. I believe this correlates with greater chances of rage from FPS games. Young children and teens already struggle with managing their emotions, and now they have the whole world at their fingertips to compete with online.  

Cooperative: Team play is one of the most fulfilling things I have experienced in gaming. Playing a “Raid” in Destiny is like nothing I have ever experienced, and completing the “Vault of Glass” was incredibly satisfying. However, while playing “King’s Fall,” having to wait 20 minutes while one of my group members continuously falls while jumping across ships has to be one of the most impatient moments I’ve experienced. Cooperative, or “co-op,” play is stressful because you no longer have to worry about competing with the enemy AI; now you have to worry if your teammates will hold their weight. Or worse, you feel like your teammates are carrying you. While playing The Division, I experienced another antecedent to feelings of anger in their new Survival Mode. This style of play has shared resources! If you have a greedy member of the team that beats you to every resource and is not willing or able to share, then it feels very frustrating to call what you’re doing “team play.” Moments like these can often lead gamers to loathing the players they have grouped up with for the night. In intense moments like the end of a “Raid” or the “Dark Zone” in Survival Mode, if a player is frustrated with their teammates there is nothing more passive aggressive than rage quitting. Not only does it end your current gaming session but it can royally screw over the remaining teammates who are pushing forward. In a game like Destiny, with “Raids” lasting upwards of eight to 12 hours to complete, much can be wasted from a rage quit, and I’m sure there have been many deleted friends after such behavior.

Racing: Forza Horizon 3 is possibly my favorite game of the year, and I’ve devoted about 150 hours to it, much of which has been filled with exciting races between friends and fun single-player campaigning. The daunting part of racing games tends to be the benchmarks they want you to meet. For example, to achieve three stars on a drift challenge you must perfectly drift through to obtain 40,000 skill points. I’m no Ken Block and even when using the Gymkhana Ford I still struggle to achieve three stars in less than 15 to 30 passes through the route. This has been rather frustrating especially when it comes to obtaining achievements and landing just a few drift challenges short of meeting the mark. I happened to find the midnight races incredibly difficult too, granted I play on Unbeatable difficulty and should expect this, but they were so difficult I noticed the inner Hulk in me coming out from time to time. Playing on harder difficulty and trying to achieve 100% completion forces nearly flawless driving skills. After 150 or so hours of racing in FH3, I can usually beat the drivatars on Unbeatable mode, but those drift challenges and midnight races are my current nemesis.  

Puzzle/Strategy: I’ve been playing video games for about 25 years, and I thought I knew all the tricks a developer could throw into a puzzle game. Well, let me tell you, I was wrong. The Witness starts out with very basic puzzles, guiding you through as it teaches you the mechanics of completing their mazes—then it happens. The game just sort of sets you loose to figure the rest out and you fall flat on your face...or at least I did. The potential this game has to light the fuel in your rage bomb is enormous! With each puzzle getting more complicated, the open-world aspect of the environment encourages exploration. When you get stumped, just move to a new part of the island and start working on a different type of puzzle. That was all great for the first 15 hours of gameplay, but I’ve reached a point where I have only a few sections left and am stuck on the last puzzle. This game does not allow you to move through a certain area without completing it, so at the moment I feel a bit like a survivor from Lost, trying to figure out what that ticking clock thing is inside that bunker we found. I love this game and it is likely another candidate for my Game of the Year choice. However, if you’re prone to raging against your machine (console) then this game could make you a YouTube star overnight. Just ask your friend to record you throwing the console through that window you swore was open just a minute ago.  

Behaviors (Types of Ragers)

Gamers come in many varieties. They also come with different skills to manage stress and the way they play. I like to think of people as falling on a spectrum regarding their different abilities and how they use them, and everyone has the opportunity to move one way or another along that spectrum. But gaming situations like those listed above might flat out give you a push.

The Unexpected Rager: Much like Wyatt Earp in Tombstone, this is the gamer that is calm and cool, likely the leader of many co-op sessions, and the glue that binds a successful team together. This type of gamer has many burdens though; one of which is setting a good example for their teammates. This type of gamer remains focused in the heat of battle, they push down their emotions to get through a tough situation, and they support others even when no one may be there to support them. This grueling style of play can wear on gamers, leading them to the unexpected rage. Not just unexpected to themselves but to the players they game with. Like Wyatt, this player may suddenly change tactics and pronounce to all enemies, “You tell ‘em I’m comin’, and I’m bringing hell with me!” Except in most scenarios, this leads the gamer to rush into a fight they cannot win.  

The Perfectionist Rager: This gamer must complete all objectives and achievements in a game, and they must do it on the hardest difficulty with the fastest time. Their goal is to obtain top leaderboard status. This type of player consequently completes very few games, often rage quits or never returns, complains about gaming sessions rather than having fun, and can be tiresome to play with, as they would rather accomplish one achievement over a night’s gaming session than just enjoy the company of their friends and a great game.  

The Narcissist Rager: Unlike the Perfectionist, who feels compelled to achieve every achievement, the Narcissist gamer believes they deserve every achievement, and when that is unattainable they rage with a passion hotter than the fires of Mordor. This gamer frequently tells you how good they are, often with little evidence. They may play solo rather than team games because they believe everyone else is not good enough for them. They have a very low tolerance to stress, as any sign of stress pushes firmly on their belief that they are the best and are in control at all times. These gamers break things and break them often.  

The Revenge Rager: This type of gamer is so focused on winning that they neglect to pay attention to the skill needed to win. In FPS’s, they get killed and blindly run into battle, often to suicide grenade kill the person who had just defeated them. In MMOs or MOBAs, they neglect team play and strategy because they need to avenge their most recent defeat and do not seem to care if it may make their team lose the match. With the glory of avenging their fallen self or compadre on their mind, they think it will work out much like Inigo Montoya as he recites, “You killed my father, prepare to die.”The actual experience tends to be less dramatic, with more of their own recurring death.  

Consequences

Most people play games for fun and leisure. I enjoy winding down a stressful day with 30 minutes of The Witness, another half hour of Forza Horizon 3, and an hour or so of The Division with my friends. Having a rage moment of my own or experiencing it with others ruins all of that. The biggest consequence to gamers who rage or get extremely angry is that no one will want to play with them. The trend in console gaming these days is to unite players and have them experiencing great moments in gaming together. Gamers who rage will experience a diminishing friends list as people will not want to use their free time gaming with an angry gamer.  

It can be costly. Gamers you see raging on YouTube are breaking expensive items that many cannot afford to simply replace every week. The rage gamer better have quite the day job to pay for the amount of damage they can rack up.   

The most notable consequence is the fact that gamers who rage are not having fun. Gaming should be an outlet for stress, not a conduit for it. Yes, games are tough, challenging, and frustrating at times, but we would not get as much satisfaction out of them if they were easy. Gamers need to have the skills to manage their emotions and the insight to know when they are losing their cool before they blow their top. This is not only an essential function of being a happy gamer but it carries over to being happy in all aspects of life. Being your own barometer for your mental well-being is important, as no one will do it better than you.

Final Thoughts

If you identify as an angry gamer or you know someone who fits these symptoms, please find the courage to gain your own insight or help them understand the importance of change. Gaming should be one of the best parts of your day, not the most stressful. Whatever your age, please game responsibly and if you must, please rage responsibly too.

 

Stay tuned to http://www.xonebros.com/blog/ for upcoming articles from FreudianSlip17 on how to cope with symptoms of being an angry gamer.

Justin Thomas
I love gaming! I love being a Dad to two young children!  I love being a husband!  What's great about my life is I've got kids who are interested in gaming and a wife who understands my need to game. I grew up in the 80's playing Nintendo classics and dabbled a bit with PlayStation before seeing "the light" that is Xbox. I love everything about it and am looking forward to sharing my experiences through the lens of a gamer, dad/husband and as a gamer with a Master's Degree in Psychology. Let the analyzing begin!  

4 Comments

Justin Thomas

I love gaming! I love being a Dad to two young children!  I love being a husband!  What's great about my life is I've got kids who are interested in gaming and a wife who understands my need to game. I grew up in the 80's playing Nintendo classics and dabbled a bit with PlayStation before seeing "the light" that is Xbox. I love everything about it and am looking forward to sharing my experiences through the lens of a gamer dad/husband and as a gamer with a Master's Degree in Psychology. Let the analyzing begin!